Mosaic / Reviews / January 15, 2014

A cinematic retrospective

Last year, 144 films were released in wide release, meaning they could be seen on 600 or more theatre screens nationwide.

There’s no statistic for all the foreign films, independent films and VOD-only films released last year.

Last year, I saw 61 films released in 2013, wide release or otherwise. There’s no statistic for all the 2013 films I didn’t see, or never will.

Last year, the highest-grossing film in the United States was “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” the first time a film starring a female protagonist held the honor in 40 years.That’s if you consider Ellen Burstyn, the protagonist of “The Exorcist.” Go back further and it might be the first time in 48 years since “The Sound of Music” in 1965.

Two other films in the top-ten, “Frozen” (number four) and “Gravity” (number seven), also centered on female lead performances.

Last year, the female buddy action film “The Heat” beat out the male buddy action film “White House Down,” released the same weekend. “The Heat” went onto be number 15 in domestic box office. “White House Down” sits back at number 44. The highest-grossing film by a female director last year was “Carrie” at number 77.

Only two women cracked into the top 100 box office. And one (Jennifer Lee, “Frozen”) was a co-director.

Last year nearly doubled the number of films made by black directors, featuring black casts and dealing with stories focused on African and African-American culture. One, “Lee Daniel’s The Butler,” cracked 100,000,000 and three others, “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” “The Best Man Holiday,” and “Twelve Years a Slave,” made a comfortable $30-70 million in domestic box office.

The number of “black films” after doubling was 11.

But last year was about more than the United States. When “Pacific Rim” flopped in the box office and barely broke $100 million, it shot to over $400 million overseas, hit number one in international box office and broke Hollywood records when it debuted in China.“Pacific Rim” was about a group of international, largely non-Caucasian heroes teaming up to save all of humanity from annihilation.

Guillermo del Toro, a Mexican filmmaker, directed it. He was one of two Mexican directors to release blockbusters last year. The other was Alfonso Cuarón, whose “Gravity” made nearly twice as much money overseas as in the United States.

“Gravity” was about staring up in awe and terror at the amount of space we’ve yet to fill, and maybe never will.

Last year, at least five narrative films – “Pain & Gain,” “Spring Breakers,” “Elysium,” “Wolf of Wall Street,” and “American Hustle” – were about the greed at the heart of American capitalism and the withered souls that judged their lives’ worth by counting money. Two of the biggest shows on television, “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” could be said to be about the same thing.

Last year – and every year – the money shouldn’t matter.

Last year was about the little people: the aimless college grad, the middle-aged couple vacationing in Greece, the social workers that run an in-between home for abused children, the D&D nerd, the failed actress, the overlooked musician, the old sailor lost at sea.

Last year was about the big people too: men in capes, men in robot suits, men with claws on their hands, men and women in fast, speeding cars saving the world from terrorists, dragons, witches, aliens, the devil, SPACE!

Last year was all about vast landscapes and endless frontiers where the big screen could do its job and transport us to a galaxy far, far away.

Last year was about Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode at the piano and their haunting, erotic duet.

Last year was the black screen as two voices, those of Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson, made love without the burden of bodies.

Last year was Paul Walker hugging Vin Diesel for the last time.

Last year was about friends and conversations and shared ideas.

Last year was all about the contact between two fully clothed, vulnerable bodies inside a bathtub, waiting for something to happen.

Last year was about films that tried to be what films had never been before: “Computer Chess,” “Only God Forgives,” “Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?,” “Leviathan.”

Last year was about films that were themselves and nothing more: “The Place Beyond the Pines,” “You’re Next,” “Evil Dead,” “Drinking Buddies,” “Kings of Summer.”

Last year was about learning to love and care and sober up even when the world is about to end and everyone else looks like zombies, about finding the heart behind that zombie shell and lighting it up.

Last year just wants you to know, after everything is said and done, that you better hold on for this year and every year after, because it’s heard the best has yet to come.

Ivan Keta
Ivan Keta is a weekly film columnist for The Knox Student. In 2013, he won first place in Critical Film Review from the Illinois College Press Association, competing in the open division against dozens of other Illinois college newspapers.

Tags:  Breaking bad carrie Exorcist film Frozen gravity Heat hunger games Mad Men Pacific Rim Sound of Music Spring Breakers The Butler

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Ivan Keta
Ivan Keta is a weekly film columnist for The Knox Student. In 2013, he won first place in Critical Film Review from the Illinois College Press Association, competing in the open division against dozens of other Illinois college newspapers.




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